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Texans have always found a way to break the mold and handle things with their own flair. The same is true for Texas bourbon; despite an unspoken rule to sip it neat, even Leonard Firestone of the Firestone & Robertson Distilling Company in Fort Worth recommends drinking it your way.

 

Garrison Brothers Distillery in Hye rolled out its first barrels of straight bourbon in 2008.  To be called “straight” bourbon, it must be aged for at least two years in new, charred-oak barrels.  (Photo by J. Griffis Smith)

As I swerved to miss the potholes along a stretch of warehouses in northeast San Antonio, I finally caught sight of the headquarters for Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling. Even with a towering windmill out front, if it weren’t for the rustic metal sign on the building, I might have imagined that the crowds were waiting for access to a warehouse sample sale. Discounted furniture or couture? Not today: Lucky for us, we were in for an entirely different sort of sampling experience—a Saturday “brewstillery” tour.

We are officially in hurricane season, as of June 1, and meteorological officials predict this will be an “above normal and possibly extremely active” season. Texas Highways wants to make sure that you have the information you need with these Hurricane Preparedness resources, including evacuation routes, checklists and more.

 

Texas Tips and Resources

Texas Department of Transportation's Hurricane Information page includes valuable resources from preparedness to the state's highway conditions, regional evacuation routes and contraflow lanes.

 

National Weather Service

The National Hurricane Center offers a checklist to gather information, plan and take action, recover and other resources. You can also find details on active storms.

Hurricane season ends Nov. 30.

An update on Uvalde’s Briscoe-Garner Museum from TH Associate Editor Matt Joyce. Be sure to check out the April issue of Texas Highways for a feature about visiting Uvalde.

The renovation of the Briscoe-Garner Museum in Uvalde hit a rough patch when a fire broke out in the historic home last December. But repairs from the fire are taking place in tandem with the renovation work, and museum officials expect to reopen the museum this summer.

Nobody was injured in the fire, and because the exhibits are stored for renovation, no items or historical artifacts were damaged, said Ben Wright, spokesman for the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at UT Austin, which owns the museum.

The $1.1 million renovation of the old Garner Museum began in January 2009. Much of the project has been related to improving the old structure, including foundation and asbestos-abatement work, Wright said. The museum is posting updates on its Facebook page.

Vice President John Nance “Cactus Jack” Garner lived in the home on North Park Street for more than 30 years. The museum first opened to the public in 1973 with exhibits focused on Garner’s life and career.

As part of the renovation, the second floor will be opened to the public for the first time, featuring exhibits related to Governor Dolph Briscoe.

“Governor Briscoe connects us with the narrative of the rest of our state, and Vice President Garner connects us with the national narrative,” Wright said. “It connects the local community in very special and meaningful ways with the state and national history.”

 (Photo © Vivadrome LLC/Chet Garner)

To many, the word “Dublin” conjures up images of green hills, lucky clovers, and jigging leprechauns in a faraway land. However, replace those with rolling pastures, prickly cacti, and jigging Daytrippers, and you have a Texas version of the Irish town that’s only a car ride away.

Can’t get enough of Texas’ wild and wonderful wildflowers? Check out these annual springtime celebrations of fun and flowers.

SPRING'S THE THING!

Texas Highways and our friends at The University of Texas at Austin Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center are teaming up again our annual wildflower photo exhibit. From May 4-12, the Wildflower Center’s McDermott Learning Center will showcase the flowery photos in this issue. The display salutes National Wildflower Week and provides a perfect prelude to explorations of the Center’s glorious gardens and trails, as well as the new Mollie Steves Zachry Texas Arboretum. 

Mark your calendar for other spring fetes during the Center’s Wildflower Days (March 11-May 31): The Artists & Artisans Festival March 9-10 (includes exhibit openings for Shou Ping’s paper sculptures and Denise Counley’s watercolors); The Spring Plant Sale and Gardening Festival April 13-14; and Gardens on Tour May 11 (tours of the Center’s displays and five private native-plant gardens). Call 512/232-0100; www.wildflower.org.

And for details about this year's wildflower photo contest (which runs from April 1-May 6), go to www.wildflower.org/photocontest. —Jill Lawless

 

SNAP AWAY!

It's photo contest time

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and Texas Highways magazine are partnering, again, for the fourth annual wildflower photography contest. The last three years have seen some increasingly phenomenal entries. We know that you all will shine this year, too.

We're bringing back popular categories such as Botanical, Landscape, People with Wildflowers and Wildlife in Native Landscape category. Another category being introduced is Native Landscape at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Categories which drew little response, including the Under 18 and Black and White categories, have been eliminated this year. 

"We are thrilled this year to welcome photographers out to the Wildflower Center with our new cateogory," says Wildflower Center representative Saralee Tiede. 

Last year nearly 13,000 votes were cast for 1,700 photographs through our public voting process. Judges then chose their favorites in each categories. All winning images appeared in the Fall issue of Wildflower magazine. The same is planned for this year’s winning images.

You may enter between April 1 and May 6. Check back for information or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

WIN TICKETS

Free admission to the Wildflower Center

As spring rolls in, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center's calendar is jam-packed with events. Stay tuned to our Facebook page for an opportunity to win free admission for two to the Center.

Drummond phlox in Gonzalez County. (Photo © Laurence Parent)

What's your flower IQ?The world didn’t end in December with the Mayan calendar. The zombie apocalypse has yet to occur. Sure, the weather has gone all cattywampus, but nonetheless, spring will return to Texas, bringing with it the annual miracle that is our wildflowers.

The Old Settlers Music Festival, a celebration of bluegrass, blues, Americana, roots, and acoustic jazz—takes place April 18-21 at Camp Ben McCulloch and the Salk Lick Pavilion in Driftwood. See the April issue for writer John T. Davis’ take on this popular spring event. Here, Executive Director Jean Spivey offers a few tips for making the most of your weekend.

“If you’re going to the festival for the campground shows, on Thursday and Sunday, you can bring coolers and your own food,” says Jean. “But at the Salt Lick Pavilion, where we have shows on Friday and Saturday, we don’t allow them. But we do sell a selection of great food, beer, and wine! We’re selling craft beers, but we’re also offering our own private-label wine, made by Duchman Family Winery in Driftwood.  

“Also, we offer free parking on site, but on Saturday you’ll want to come early because we always overflow to the rancher’s field across the street. And parking there costs $5 per car.

“Please bring your instrument if have one. There are lots of impromptu jams that spring up, and we also have lots of free performance workshops. Even if you don’t play, some of the workshops can be interesting. For example, we have a shaker workshop, where the instructors talk about rhythm and how to shake your shaker!

“If you’re bringing kids, know that the kids’ activities are  most plentiful on Saturday. We have all the inflatables, plus pony rides, a petting zoo, arts-and-crafts, and of course the Youth Competition on Saturday morning at 10:30. We have had a lot of good talent come through the Youth Competition, such as Grammy-nominee Sarah Jarosz. Certainly worth checking out."

 

 

 

  (Photo by Michael Amador)

In the January issue of Texas Highways, Senior Editor Lori Moffatt explores New Braunfels’ historic district of Gruene, a community founded in the 1800s as a cotton-ginning town. The town founder, Henry Gruene, built a dance hall here in 1878, but the whole community had fallen into decline by end of World War I, in part because of a boll weevil infestation that destroyed the cotton crops here (and elsewhere in Texas).

 In 1975, the dance hall’s restoration kicked off a rebirth of Gruene itself.  Lori spoke with the mastermind behind the hall’s restoration, Pat Molak, to learn more about Gruene’s history.

“Well,” says Pat Molak, “In the early 1970s I was finishing an unsuccessful career as a stockbroker in San Antonio. I knew I didn’t want to be in the business anymore, and I was literally looking for a dance hall. A friend of mine told me that there was this old dance hall near New Braunfels, and the next thing you know, we went up there to take a look.

“The front of the hall was being run as a beer joint. And when I went to use the restrooms, lo and behold there was this great dance hall there. It was being used as storage. We made a deal under the cedar trees in the beer garden, and the next thing I knew, I owned a dance hall.

“We honestly didn’t do too much to it. We knocked out a few walls, but all the signage and the stage backdrop were already there. We cleaned up all the trash, rewired the building, brought in potable water, bought a few new beer boxes, and hired some bands.

“We were feeling our way. It was 1975, and back then, Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker had just gotten to Austin, and we knew we liked their music. That was the sound we were interested in. So by the fall of ’75, we had been having dances for about four months, and there was a band in San Marcos called the Ace in the Hole Band, led by a fellow named George Strait. We hired them for $150 bucks. They played until the early 1980s when George got his contract in Nashville.    

“He shot the image for his first album, ‘Strait Country,’ at Gruene Hall, and then returned in 2009 to shoot the images for his record ‘Twang.’ He and his wife, Norma, spent the whole day in Gruene, just like the old days. That dance hall is magical. A whole lot of artists, from Chris Isaak to Jerry Jeff Walker to Pat Green, tell me it’s one of their favorite places to play.”

(Photo by Michael Amador)In the January issue of Texas Highways, Senior Editor Lori Moffatt uncovers a link between a no-frills north Austin Vietnamese restaurant called Tam Deli and Austin celebrity chef and restaurant entrepreneur Larry McGuire, whose dining empire includes the French-Vietnamese restaurant Elizabeth Street Café, Lambert’s Downtown Barbecue, Perla’s Seafood, the new Clark’s Oyster Bar, and the highly anticipated reinvention of Jeffrey’s, long regarded as one of the city’s first and finest upscale eateries.

The connection? It’s that as a teenager, McGuire often dined on noodle bowls and banh mi (Vietnamese French-bread sandwiches) at Tam Deli, and that some of the dishes at the upscale Elizabeth Street Café are homages to dishes served at Tam, such as the sweet-potato fritters.   

 “My favorite dining places tend to be family-run joints, often no-frills places that focus on cuisines from Mexico, South America, India, and Asia, because the food can be so inventive and delicious—and affordable, “ says Lori.  

“My favorite ‘restaurant row’ in town is an admittedly unattractive stretch of Lamar Boulevard north of 183, where you can find dozens of interesting restaurants serving Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Pakistani, and Indian fare.

“Just a few blocks north of the Lamar/US 183 intersection, on the west side of the street next to a Korean Presbyterian Church, is Tam Deli, which is famous for its banh mi and vanilla custard-filled cream puffs—dishes that are culinary reminders of Vietnam’s long French occupation. Drive north a quarter mile or so, and on the west side of the street, and in two strip malls between Peyton Gin Road and West Rundberg Lane, you’ll find an interesting assortment of options for adventuresome diners, including Mariscos Los Jarochos, a Mexican seafood joint with a menu in Spanish; a tiny, hole-in-the-wall Korean place called Together that serves a great smoked mackerel and beef bulgogi; two fascinating Indian grocery stores; Shalimar Indian restaurant (skip the buffet and order from the menu) and a Vietnamese place called Thanh Ni.

“Cross Rundberg going north, and you’ll find yet another mash-up of ethnic influences jammed together in a spiritless strip mall, including Agha, a narrow and spotless place that serves Indian and Pakistani smoothies, ice-cream desserts, and fruit juices; Lucky Bakery, a Hong Kong-style bakery that makes killer curry buns and does a brisk business in birthday cakes; the Cuban Sandwich Café; and Nyuy Vietnamese restaurant, where I rarely resist the fabulous marinated beef lettuce wraps from the appetizer menu. The waiter brings you platters of beef, romaine, mint, basil, cilantro, shredded carrots, sliced cucumbers, jalapenos, and bean sprouts, and you make your own spring rolls at the table. Nyuy changed its name recently from Le Soleil, because evidently people were mistaking it for a French restaurant.

“Across the street from all of this wonderfulness, next to a huge disco called Rodeo and a Japanese karaoke parlor, is a tiny Indian grocery story called Taj Grocer and perhaps my favorite Indian restaurant in Austin, Swad.  You must forgive the plastic cutlery and greenish lighting, and instead marvel at a menu of Southern vegetarian Indian street food. My favorite thing there is the onion and potato dosa—a giant crepe made of rice-and-lentil batter, stuffed with onions and potatoes—all for less than $5.

“Keep going north, and on the west side of Lamar, about midway between Rundberg and Kramer Lane, and you’ll find a place called T&S Chinese Seafood. I learned about T&S a few years ago, and back then the rumor was that chefs often visited T&S late-night after their own kitchens shut down. I don’t know if that’s true, but the food is really good here, and it’s open late. For dinner, I like the salt-and-pepper shrimp, but be sure to order a vegetable dish as well; I like the mushroom-and-Chinese broccoli combination. The dim sum on Sunday is also fun.

“Finally, continue just a few blocks north, and on the east side of Lamar, you’ll find Chinatown Center. This is a shopping complex anchored by Austin’s largest Asian grocery store, MT Supermarket. I love going to MT for crazy greens, unusual fruits, and condiments from around the world. MT also has a huge selection of housewares, ranging from monstrous plastic bowls for preparing noodles for a crowd, rice cookers, pretty sake sets, and all manner of ladles, spoons, strainers, and other interesting items. Some of my vegetarian friends come here to stock up in the frozen-food section. I also like MT’s selection of Chinese and Japanese ice-cream products; in particular I’m addicted to these popsicles made of red beans; they’re sweet and great for dessert but also have 6-7 grams of protein.

“Other interesting shops in Chinatown Center include a Chinese herbalist (the dried ginger here is terrific); a salon dedicated solely (pun intended) to Chinese foot massage; a dessert and sandwich shop called Short n’ Sweet (try the durian yogurt if you’re feeling adventuresome—it smells like a locker room but tastes delicious); two banh mi shops called Lily’s Sandwich and the Baguette House; a Korean barbecue place called the Korean Grill (go with a group and cook your meal at a tabletop grill); and a highly regarded Vietnamese noodle place called Pho Saigon.

“Drop me a line if you go to any of these places, and let me know what you find!”

Light Crust Doughboys. (Photo by J. Griffis Smith)

In the January 2013 issue of Texas Highways, writer Gene Fowler explores the history of the Light Crust Doughboys, which began in Fort Worth in 1931 when Burrus Mills hired some musicians to advertise their Light Crust Flour on the radio. In the course of his research, Gene visited with longtime bandmember Art Greenhaw about the group's long career.

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